tonight on "nightline," a blind eye? a stunning scandal and reported cover-up entangle a legendary football coach and bring shame to a famous campus. a story of power, trust and the failure of powerful people to protect the most vulnerable. cain strikes back. battered by accusations of sexual harassment, in an exclusive interview tonight, republican presidential front-runner herman cain comes out swinging, saying he's been set up. and miranda writes. she's a hot young star with angelic looks, an acid pen and exploding fan base. miranda lambert is tonight's "play list." >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden
and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," november 8th, 2011. >> good evening, i'm bill weir. they say it's not the crime that creates trouble, it's the coverup. but sometimes it's both. as with the pedophilia epidemic in the catholic church and the attempt to hide it and now a narrower but deeply troubling scandal at a distinguished american university. what kind of person knows about the abuse of children and does not do everything to stop it? well, tonight, fingers are pointing at a man millions long considered a symbol of decency. here's abc's dan harris. >> love you, joe! >> reporter: tonight, an extraordinary show of support for joe paterno, the embattled penn state legend, his house mobbed by hundreds of students, linking arms, chanting and singing. ♪ for the glory
>> with penn state, i'm proud of you. i've always been proud of you. >> we love you, joe! >> reporter: that joe paterno is fighting for his job tonight is an epic reversal of fortune for a man who built penn state into a national brand, charging to victory under the motto, success with honor. a man now possibly about to be cast aside by the very institution he trans formed. all for what he did or did not do when alerted to child sex abuse in a case that has parents all over america asking, could my child be abused without anybody ever telling me? the saga started with this man, jerry sandusky, once paterno's top defensive coach, considered a possible heir apparent, a community pillar who founded a charity to work with at-risk kids. a position prosecutors now say sandusky used as a hunting ground for vulnerable victims, eight young boys.
>> reach out to young people, trying to motivate them, to mentor them. >> reporter: according to prosecutors, penn state appears to have multiple opportunities to stop sandusky. like when two boys came forward in 1998 to say sandusky fondled them in the team showers. campus police even eavesdropped on a conversation between sandusky and one boy's mother, a scene that mother recently described to local newspaper reporters. >> he admitted to taking the shower. he admitted something bad happened. he asked her for forgiveness. he said, i know i probably won't get it from you and he said, "i wish i were dead." >> reporter: but he was never charged. in 2002, a junior staffer on the team, this man, mike mcqueary, said he saw sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the team showers. mcqueary took it to joe paterno and paterno took it to a pair of college administrators. however, those administrators
never told police and neither did paterno. meanwhile, jerry sandusky allegedly went on abusing. >> unless people are directly c confronted with something, many times, they won't report it because they want to protect their world. >> reporter: sandusky was only brought down when a 15-year-old boy spoke up. >> it's remarkable. it took a very brave person like the mom said, she's very proud of her son because he had to stand up to this giant, this football god. >> reporter: while the two college administrators who failed to notify police have been arrested and charged, prosecutors say paterno is in the clear. >> we love you, joe! >> reporter: but though he may not be hauled in front of a court of law this is a man who for decades famously stressed ethics, building penn state's small football program into a come los us, without one cheating scandal. a living legend to whom they erected a monument here. but many people say paterno failed up to live up to his own standards in this case.
today, just minutes before paterno's first news conference since the scandal was about to start, it was suddenly canceled. >> today's press conference cannot be held and it will not rescheduled. he doesn't have any responsibility to talk to people about this? but then we learned that paterno actually wanted to speak and he was furious, in fact, that it was canceled. >> i was hoping i was going to be able to answer them today but we'll try to do it as soon as we can. can't do it today. >> reporter: his son denying reports in "the new york times" that his father is about to be fired. >> there's been no contact about anything to do with anybody stepping down. that's all we have really at this time. >> reporter: a former paterno player, matt millen, broke down on espn. >> i get mad. and it's -- if we can't protect our kids, we as a society are pathetic. >> reporter: tonight, after the penn state students were done rallying in front of paterno's
home -- >> joe paterno! >> reporter: they moved onto the campus. you think he lived up to his own code of ethics? >> we're going to have to live with that. >> reporter: as they sang, members of the penn state board of trustees were meeting to discuss the fate of joe paterno. abc news has learned a decision about whether paterno will get to keep his job could be made in the next 24 to 48 hours. for "nightline," this is dan harris in state college, pennsylvania. >> our thanks to dan for that. and just ahead, it was election night. we have some results for you. and also truth and lies on the campaign trail. her can main's fiery comeback in the face of harassment accusations. [ female announcer ] investing for yourself is a necessity.
>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with bill weir. >> americans voted today and a couple state measures with national implications went down in defeat. an initiative to outlaw abortion by declaring that life begins at conception failed in mississippi and ohio voters rejected a republican effort to limit the bargaining power of union teachers, cops and firefighters. meanwhile, one year from today, americans will go back to the polls to pick a president. and herman cain seems convinced he's still in the running, despite the two women who have gone public with sexual harassment allegations against him, while two others remain anonymous. aside from his defiant press conference today, cain sat down with only one reporter, abc's jonathan karl. >> reporter: it's come to this. the man who shot to the top of the race for the republican presidential nomination forced to hold a press conference denying that he is a sexual
harasser. >> i have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period. the fact is, these anonymous allegations are false. the charges and the accusations are absolute ly reject. >> reporter: it's been a roller coaster ride for cain. obscure candidate with little money who surged to the top of the pomes a month air go only to face this. >> he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my jen t genitals. he also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch. >> reporter: the latest, and the first to go public, sharon bialek, stepped forward yesterday to say that cain groped her one night in 1997 when she came to speak with him about finding a job.
>> i said, "what are you doing? you know i have a boyfriend. this isn't what i came here for." mr. cain said, "you want a job, right?" >> reporter: it was the latest turn in a story that broke nine days ago when politico rote that two other women accused cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s when they worked for him at the national restaurant association. >> as far as a settlement, i am unaware of any sort of settlement. i hope it wasn't for much because i didn't do anything. >> reporter: cain later acknowledged there was a settlement. the women received tens of thousands of dollars to resolve their complaints. in an exclusive interview with abc news and yahoo! cain disc s discussed the controversy at length, starting with sharon bialek's accusations, the most serious yet. >> because they are baseless, because i reject them, in this particular case, i don't even know who this lady is, it's a distraction from the things we
ought to talk about, which is this economy, energy independence, cutting spending, as well as getting this national back on track. >> reporter: so, in this case, though, it's not anonymous. it's sharon bialek, she's come out. you heard her accusations. let's be clear. you're saying that she is lying about this. >> yes. i am saying that. you know, in as nice a way as i can. i don't know any other way to say it. i first have to recognize who she is. >> reporter: but late today, another of cain's four accusers went public. karen kraushaar, who served as the spokesperson for the ins during the yeeel yan gonzalez controversy. she was one of those who received a catch payment from the restaurant association to settle her charges against cain. you know the expression, where there's smoke there's fire. what are the motivations here? why would they be doing this? >> well, jonathan, i honestly believe that there's an element in this country, in our
politics, that does not want to see a businessman succeed at getting the nomination for the republican party and does not want me to succeed at becoming president of the united states of america. we can't keep responding to those questions and now this one is not anonymous but i have absolutely not acted inappropriate with this lady or anybody else in my entire career. >> reporter: cain is a man who seems to have unlimited confidence. but he told us the controversy has been painful to his family, especially to his wife, gloria. >> now, with these recent accusations, obviously that has an emotional impact on her because you're talking about her husband of 43 years. and even though my wife is more of a quiet person, quieter person that i am, she has a quiet, sweet personality, she can get angry like anybody else.
>> reporter: so, she angry about this? >> oh, yes. she says, i've known you for over 40 years. that stuff doesn't even sound like you. let alone that you did this with somebody that, you know, is making these accusations. and that was reassuring because she knows that's not something i would do. some of the claims that were made, absolutely ridiculous. >> reporter: as for cain himself, whether or not the controversy sinks his campaign, his confidence still knows no bounds. name the fifth president that belongs on mt. rushmore. >> the fifth president that belongs on mt. rushmore. he hasn't been president yet. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm jonathan karl. >> thanks to jonathan for that. and just ahead, that's her with the kerosene. miranda lambert talks about the fire inside.
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♪ if i should fall from grace with god ♪ ♪ where no doctor can relieve me ♪ ♪ if i'm buried 'neath the sod ♪ but the angels won't receive me ♪ ♪ let me go, boys, let me go, boys ♪ ♪ let me go down in the mud where the rivers... ♪ [ female announcer ] when you're responsible for this much of the team, you need a car you can count on.
record," is creating crossover buzz. some themes may just speak to a lot of people far from nashville. here's tonight's "play list." ♪ i thought that maybe i could find myself ♪ ♪ if i could walk around ♪ i swear i'll leave ♪ won't take nothing but a memory ♪ ♪ from the house that built me when i have somebody come up to me, say my songs really got me through a hard time or your song, you know, gave me hope to get out of a horrible relationship, that's why i remember, this is why i do this. ♪ waiting for a train >> first musical memory is probably of my dad playing guitar in our house. he was a singer/songwriter and so just seems like i've always been sitting around with him with him playing guitar since i
was born. still my favorite song of all time, the one he would sing a lot to me. as a little girl, i just loved it. ♪ stand me outside the fire >> "standing outside the fire." i saw a garth brooks concert when i was 10. and something sparked inside me that night, just being a little girl. we were close to the back, but i had braces and i remember just smiling the whole time just in awe of this concert. when he sang that song, the whole edges of the stage caught on fire and maybe that's why i still have a fascination with fire to this day. "bad moon rising." that's the one that got me into ccr's music. obviously a huge ccr fan and been doing a fogherty song in
every set i've ever done. had such a huge influence on the music business and on music in general. ♪ well i was born a coal miner's daughter ♪ >> if i got to hang out with loretta lynn at her house, we record recorded that song for an album she put out last year. i was just so crazy to be sitting in her kitchen and talking about, you know, family and rode stories and you go, oh, my gosh, that's loretta lynn. i thought i was looking at the big picture of my career and what i wanted to be and that just made me widen my spectrum even more. i want to be not doing this for 20 years but doing it for 50. ♪ the way i am ♪ don't take my -- >> merle haggard. he's a living legend.
just in general as an artist, as a writer, he's real honest and always talked openly about his troubles and being in prison and he really lived with the songs he wrote and i love the honesty in his music. that's where i get my love of just honest country music. ♪ pick it up ♪ pick it up ♪ baby ♪ i mean everything ♪ and when you hit the ground ♪ check the lost and found >> and you can catch miss lambert at the 45th cma awards tomorrow night. hanging out in loretta lynn's kitchen. sounds fun. stay tuned. please. jimmy kimmel is poised to entertain you like a panther. and we hope you check in for "good morning america." they're working while you rest. and in this year leading up to the presidential election, one year to go, please look to us for more up to the minute political coverage. abcnews.com and our partner